Those that consider vanilla to be the ugly stepsister to flavors like chocolate and strawberry have clearly never had good vanilla – whether it be the ice cream or the extract. It’s amazing what a splash of really good vanilla can do to a recipe – everything from baking to pancakes. The problem is, sometimes the good stuff can be hard to find, and tends to be spendy. I’d heard of people making their own but had really never given it much thought past that.
The impetus to really get this project started was the day I was strolling down the aisles at Costco admiring all the massive packages of food, wondering who on earth needs a vat of mayo, when the clouds parted and the angels started singing. There on the shelf was a package of two glass tubes, each containing 5 long, plump, beautiful vanilla beans for $11.99. Sold!
Making homemade vanilla is really so simple it’s almost silly but the one thing it takes is patience and unfortunately that’s the one I run short on, but I was determined.
I couldn’t bear to blow all 10 of the beans in one pop, so I took five of them, split them down the middle and scraped out the seeds. I added these along with the bean to a glass bottle with a stopper and added enough mid-grade (no need to bust out the Grey Goose for this) vodka to cover – approximately half of a fifth. Close the stopper and give it a good shake. And that’s pretty much it. When I walk by, I give it a little shake – probably more out of my desire to fiddle with it than anything else. It’s been two weeks at this point, and it’s a nice amber color and smells wonderful, but I’m going to try to hold out for two to three more weeks to let the flavor really develop.
When I use some of those remaining vanilla beans in recipes, I plan to throw them in the bottle and add more vodka from time to time. I love gifts that are consumables and I’m thinking this homemade vanilla may just be the perfect gift for my foodie friends when the holidays roll around – hardly a plain Jane present.